Britney Spears has just released Glory, her ninth studio album – and in celebration, I’m HAVING A BIT OF A MARATHON.
I’m going through the whole discography in chronological order (skipping the Greatest Hits and Remix compilations because, you know, I don’t have that much time) and trying my absolute hardest to milk some kind of #blog #content from it.
So let’s do it. Pressing play… now.
1. …BABY ONE MORE TIME
DUN DUN DUN! And we’re off. …Baby One More Time (the song) must be one of very few tracks to be universally recognisable from its first three notes, but for me the best moment is “I MUST CONFESS!!!”, closely followed by the POW! finale (the best bit of the video, FYI, is the headteacher’s iconic hand wiggle). I often overlook this, to be honest, just because it’s the song People At Large tend to assume is Britney’s best (it isn’t), but it is, irrefutably, a generation’s classic.
Speaking of a classic, the next song – the original album cut of (You Drive Me) Crazy – is… not one of those. Genuinely it’s a mountain of steaming shite compared to the later Stop! Remix that was released as a single: the random guitar solo is out of place, the final chorus is a damp anticlimax, and so help me it’s just not something Sabrina The Teenage Witch herself would ever put her name to. For shame.
Third song Sometimes, however – one of Britney’s most underrated early gems – is still completely lovely. Listen to it right now; it’ll make you smile and MAYBE EVEN sigh longingly for more innocent times. After that, the messy Soda Pop can get in the bin, and Born To Make You Happy is another All-Time Great that never really got its moment in the sun (…apart when it was Number One in the United Kingdom). From The Bottom Of My Broken Heart, the single they released instead of BTMYH in the US, is Literally Okay.
OH my GOD I had completely forgotten that I Will Be There existed, but WHAT a magnificent tune. This is tween bubblegum perfection; from the extravagant alternative chorus before the finale to the long electric guitar strums at the close. Putting this bit in green so I remember to lose my shit over it again later. I Will Still Love You reminds me of that excruciating X Factor USA incident so I’m glazing over it, but Deep In My Heart could even challenge …Baby for the album’s greatest intro. It’s even more 90s than, I dunno, denim.
Things slip a tad towards the end: I’ve already forgotten Thinkin’ About You (I think it was decent…?), and it pains me to tell you that E-Mail My Heart is not the masterpiece its title suggests it was, even if there’s something likeable in its sweetness. The Beat Goes On is somewhat random, but satisfying nonetheless.
iTunes tells me that based on my individual star ratings for different tracks, this averages out as a four YES FOUR star album.
2. OOPS!.. I DID IT AGAIN
Like its predecessor, Oops! begins with its stupendous title track, and – DO YOU KNOW WHAT, GUYS – I actually think I prefer it to …Baby. The false-start intro is genius, the lead-in to the second chorus is fucking ACE (“that is just so typically me-e… ba-by… oh…”) and DO I EVEN BLOODY NEED to talk about the fact that the middle-8 is a FUCKING PIECE OF DIALOGUE? What a song. Fully doing the funky shoulders from the video right now.
BUT WAIT, there’s even better to come with the monumental Stronger, easily one of my Top 3 Britney singles. From the explosive trinity of electro-farts at the beginning to the bombastic middle-8, it sails through its first couple of minutes on a sensational 9.5 before slam-dunking a perfect 10 from the moment Britney pants heavily over an eery backing track to the rousing, stadium-worthy victory lap of a final chorus. I am slain.
The shade is served a little bit cooler on Don’t Go Knockin’ On My Door, which drops the ball a little but at least shows early signs of Brit’s growing desire to move away from the sparkly teeny-pop of 1999. It’s certainly a different kettle of fish from the deep cuts on …Baby, I’ll tell ya that. (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction can be done without, #justsaying, but I enjoyed Don’t Let Me Be The Last To Know much more than I was expecting. I don’t know, for some reason it doesn’t stand out as a classic Britney single but it’s not without its charm. After that, What U See (Is What U Get) is a big NSYNC-style 90s-banger and – bonus points – it’s followed by a random PHONE CALL CLIP.
On to Lucky and… guys, I’m just gonna say it: Britney was WARNING US that she was GOING TO HAVE SIGNIFICANT PERSONAL TROUBLES as early as THE YEAR 2000. But did we listen? Well, yes, in our millions, but clearly we didn’t notice the HIGHLY INTELLIGENT SUBTEXT and the SECRET HIDDEN BOMBSHELL that the girl in the song IS ACTUALLY BRITNEY HERSELF. And they say pop is one-dimensional.
This is actually a much better album than …Baby, isn’t it? It was only released one year later but it feels like it’s from a different decade (oh hang on, it was: …Baby was 1999 and Oops! was 2000. As you were.) – it’s just got a kind of ~flavour to it that would have sounded quite nice on one of the era’s many Nickelodeon sitcoms. One Kiss From You is brill, Where Are You Now is nice and Can’t Make You Love Me is a surprise late-album bop (it literally sounds like an NSYNC cover). When Your Eyes Say It sounds dated as fuck now but feels like it could have been a breath of fresh air for Britney at the time, plus – lest we forget – it ends with dialogue (MORE DIALOGUE!) leading into the final song. So all in all, job well done. *Mumble mumble Dear Diary is super-cringey though, mumble mumble*
And the iTunes star ratings are as follows…
This means that, on average, Oops! is also a FOUR STAR ALBUM.
“I know I may be young, but I’ve got feelings too / And I need to do what I feel like doing, so let me go and just listen.” That’s the mission statement for Album Three, right there in its first few seconds as the (let’s be honest) risky lead single I’m A Slave 4 U kicks in. I remember thinking at the time that it was a total curveball: popstars have a habit of vowing to Go Mature, but more often than not they end up staying pretty much the same. Holy shit, though, this is a million miles away from the likes of Sometimes and Born To Make You Happy. If E-mail My Heart is a nice mug of coffee, Slave 4 U is a fresh shot-glass of jizz: it’s Britney at her sexiest so far (spoken ad-libs like “Do you like it?” and “I just can’t help myself” are dripping with LITERAL INTERCOURSE) and the result is one of her (many) most memorable videos. What a song.
Overprotected’s up next, and – as if we weren’t reading between those complex lines on Lucky – it’s all about the frustrations of being a young woman and/or in the public eye and/or a young woman in the public eye. It’s distinctly Early Years Britney, which makes it both a solid banger and a little on the safe side. But even (most of) Britney’s “safe” stuff is still amazing, right?
Track 3 is Lonely, and I have a lot of time for it. It’s very #OfItsTime and Britney’s delivery is brilliant. GAWD HELP the guy this was aimed at. The Dido-penned (!) I’m Not A Girl, Not Yet A Woman follows – and we’re back on-message with the Bloody Hell Growing Up Is The Fucking Worst Isn’t It mission statement. Remember when this was a poem REPEAT A POEM in the movie Crossroads?
Now seems an appropriate time to announce I’ll be performing that as a spoken word piece at the Edinburgh Fringe next year.
Christ, you know what hasn’t aged well? Boys. Time has not been kind to it. Time has slapped it in the groin and hung it from a lamp-post. Brit performs it well but it’s just a bit… dry? Anticipating, up next, is surprisingly glitzy considering the urban-tinged swagger before it, and goddammit that chorus is so infectiously sparkly (minus points for the fade-out finish, though). I Love Rock’N’Roll has aged better than, say, Boys, because it was never that memorable to begin with. It was fine then, it’s fine now – and if anything, that guitar moment at the Billboard Music Awards this year has done it some favours.
OK I forgot how much I’m SO FUCKING INTO the next bop. Cinderella is a MASTERPIECE, so help me. I literally have zero bones to pick with it. “I won’t return to thee” is a strong contender for the best lyric of all time, and this whole track is a strong contender for my favourite ever Britney deep cut. Spotify it immediately. Let Me Be is good too, and Bombastic Love is straight-up impossible not to sassy-head-dance to.
With That’s Where You Take Me, When I Found You (THIS IS A CLASSIC) and I Run Away, the album reaaaaally continues along a very strong line. Did you know it’s among Britney’s worst-rated LPs on Metacritic (score 50/100)? What a shambles. Penultimate song What It’s Like To Be Me might be a waste of everyone’s time but slow-building closer Before The Goodbye is more than enough to end it on a high.
GUYS ITUNES TELLS ME WE HAVE A FIVE-STAR ALBUM:
4. IN THE ZONE
Is Me Against The Music the only lead single from a Britney album to be overshadowed by its follow-up (in this case Toxic)? I personally would favour Till The World Ends over Hold It Against Me and Perfume over Work Bitch, but I think this is the only time when the first cut has been completely and indisputably knocked out the park by its successor. Featuring Madonna, this isn’t a bad song by any means, but I just can’t forget that ICONIC Jennifer Saunders and Dawn French parody (“Hey Britney… look what I can do with this pole!”) which, tragically, I can’t find for love nor money on YouTube.
I Got That Boom Boom could have done well as a single, couldn’t it? If only Britney would still choose people like the Ying Yang Twins as collaborators over, say, Iggy Azalea. The sexually-charged Showdown makes it crystal clear that the bubblegum days of yore are a thing of the past, and Breathe On Me is so intense it makes the sexual content of I’m A Slave 4 U sound like it was lifted from Mrs Brown’s Boys.
I’m conscious that we’re approaching THE BIG ONE but first there’s Early Mornin’ to sit through. Not a fan, tbhq: I wasn’t into it back in 2003 and nothing’s changed in 2016. Is it even Britney singing the chorus?? Anyway once the 3:46 slog is done and dusted THEM ENORMOSTRINGS KICK IN and we’re launching head-first into Toxic, which joins Stronger as the second component in my personal Holy Spearit Trinity of Greatest Singles. TRIVIA BREAK: My teenage email address was named after this, so drop a line to firstname.lastname@example.org if you want your message to never be read. I also remember setting an MSN status as lyrics from this song when I thought it went “Your toxic gums slipping over me”. It’s maybe not a coincidence that I’m no longer in touch with many people from school.
Track seven is Outrageous, which ranks marginally above Early Mornin’ but not by far. When I heard it was being lined up as the album’s fourth single I was LIVID. But after that it’s uninterrupted brilliance until the end: Touch Of My Hand is the most sophisticated ode to masturbation I’ve ever heard, The Hook Up could still do with a killer choreo-heavy music video, and I also believe I’m one of about three people in the world who are completely in love with Shadow. And Brave New Girl is an ace one, too, even if it is of a completely different nature to more-or-less everything else on the record. This is also the point in my listening party at which I’m losing myself both Twitter and Snapchat followers:
Finally, I still ADORE Everytime. One of my favourite videos, too. She DIES IN IT, for fuck’s sake.
Anyway here’s where we are with In The Zone, and it averages out at another neat four stars – which is interesting considering I always assume it’s one of my favourites. Guess the back half of the album, together with Breathe On Me, really hauls it uphill:
This is the point where we draw a definitive Sharpie line under the Early Years, isn’t it? Back in 2003 we thought the line was between Oops! and Britney, but with the benefit of hindsight it’s obviously between In The Zone and…
I’m starting to notice that the first thing you hear on a Britney album is completely brilliant. On …Baby it’s that DUN DUN DUN piano bit, on Oops! it’s the double-false-start of the title track, on Britney it’s the spoken mission statement of I’m A Slave 4 U (“I know I may be young…” etc) and on In The Zone, to a lesser extent, it’s the growl-chant of “All my people in the crowd, grab a partner, take it down.”
Blackout begins with “It’s Britney, bitch” – and then the throbbing synths of Gimme More kick in and it’s chocks away on Godney’s most fascinating record so far. This was, as you damn well know, released in 2007 when she was in the midst of an almighty dark patch: salacious headlines ranged from bizarre to fuck-me-that’s-genuinely-worrying, and it really didn’t look like she was ever going to Come Back From The Brink. And yet – at the exact same time – she was making some of the best-remembered music of her life, with Gimme More serving as a bold lead single and the surprisingly self-aware robo-crunch of Piece Of Me making her sound much more in control than she seemed. The tracks are nearly a full decade old but still sound brilliant today.
Third tune Radar is a curious beast, isn’t it? Included in not one but two Britney albums (we’ll see it again later), it is – for me – the only track on Blackout that falls just short of incredible. Break The Ice pulls us back (the intro – in which she says “I know I shouldn’t have kept you waiting, but I’m here now” makes me wonder if this was maybe once considered as a lead single – I’m sure someone can verify??), before the only song on the set that can even be vaguely considered a “ballad” arrives in the form of the majestic Heaven On Earth. I love it. It’s probably one of my favourite Britney deep cuts: she’s A++ at sexjams but this is an unexpected moment of softness, and like Breathe On Me it wouldn’t sound out of place on a Kylie record.
Britney doesn’t properly start singing until almost a full minute into the exceptionally-titled sixth track, Get Naked (I Got A Plan); a bouncy midtempo bangfest that manages to make something brilliant out of alternating repetitions of “Get naked! Get naked!” and “Take it off, take it off”. We’re not in Crossroads territory any more, NO SIREE. Freakshow too is fabulously filthy, while Toy Soldier is another strut-a-long anthem I’d have LOVED to see a video for. Hot As Ice fizzes us nicely into the final third, and it says a lot that this song, as well as Ooh Ooh Baby and Perfect Lover after it, can be the weakest non-Radar songs on the collection and still be bloody ace.
It’s on concluding song Why Should I Be Sad that we get a glimpse at why exactly this bleary-eyed album – and Brit’s simultaneous personal woes – came to be: divorce. Her split from Kevin Federline made her upset enough to spiral, and pissed off enough to create a gloriously cock-hungry, boundary-pushing album. It’s written by Pharrell Williams and Britney’s delivery is dripping with venom.
Oh, there’s also bonus track Get Back. I think it’s a fucking GEM.
No prizes for guessing what score this album averages, then:
Womanizer has one hell of an intro, doesn’t it? And “Daddy-O, you’ve got the swagger of a champion” is a great lyric. This was a very good song to launch Project Don’t Worry Everyone, Britney’s Fine Now!!! in 2008, and it still stands out as one of her very best.
The title track follows, and ya know what, it’s not a classic for me, although I’d like to point out that the Diplo Remix is a thing of BEAUTY. Ballad Out From Under is the third song, and it’s the most vulnerable we’ve heard Brit since Everytime five years (or, in the context of this marathon, an hour and a bit) ago. It’s a really lovely song; one that would never have fitted in on Blackout, and one that – although clearly about a break-up – also has lyrics that could easily apply to the dramatic events of the year leading up to its release (“I’ll get it all figured out when I’m out from under”).
Kill The Lights, however, could have been on Blackout, and – HOLD UP – already a problem with Circus is emerging: it’s not bizarre for a pop album to include a variety of sounds, but there’s already a lack of cohesion here, even if this song is AN ABSOLUTE JAM. It’s not as brazen as Piece Of Me in confronting the media attention head-on, but it’s still on-point. Fifth track Shattered Glass is also great, but again, that’s five songs that sound like they belong on separate albums. Each is great in its own right, but… d’ya know what I mean?
Anyway, track six is If U Seek Amy and you know what, this might be it: my least favourite Britney single. Maybe. I can’t quite put my finger on why; I just don’t dig it. I feel the same way about it as Bree Van De Kamp feels about balls:
The next two songs – the midtempo Unusual You and Blur – are really great, and I remember reading a review of the album at the time that said they painted a picture of a post-Blackout Britney waking up in a groggy haze, wondering what the fuck happened. Unusual You sees her being surprised by kindness, while on Blur she genuinely can’t remember a thing about the night before. They’re very different songs, but they’re a great progression from Blackout and I wish there was more like them on the album.
Mmm Papi switches things up once again, and is enjoyable enough, while Mannequin is great: an ode to doing whatever the hell you like whilst giving zero fucks about anyone else. MA FACE LIKE A MANNEQUIN indeed. I’m not crazy about Lace And Leather but it’s pretty good fun, and whilst My Baby – clearly about motherhood – gives us a chance to hear Britney at her most heartfelt, it’s certainly a stark change of pace after the bondage banger immediately before it.
There are four bonus tracks on Circus and I’m NOT EVEN GOING TO ENTERTAIN the repeated appearance of Radar (it was supposed to be released as a single from Blackout but got postponed a year, hence its return), but the other three are all super, if very different: Rock Me In is an electro-pop-rock anthem with a proper sugar rush of a chorus, Phonography is another epic sexjam, and Amnesia is playful, strange and a complete blast.
I feel like I had more issues with this record than any other before it, but despite being considerably un-streamlined, it seems judging each song in isolation makes it another FOUR YES FOUR star album.
7. FEMME FATALE
Till The World Ends opens this one, and alongside Stronger and Toxic it completes my own personal triangle of THE ULTIMATE THREE BRITNEY SONGS. We don’t actually get the main chorus until two-and-a-half minutes in, and the payoff is enormous: it sounds like an explosion of pyrotechnics and strobe lights, and doesn’t let up until its glorious climax. Sod Brexit; the fact that this didn’t penetrate the UK Top 20 is the greatest modern catastrophe we’ve ever been through. NO STOP LOOKING AT ME LIKE THAT.
Hold It Against Me is up next, and I remember being SO DAMN EXCITED when this single premiered. It was the very start of 2011, and it felt big. Even though Britney had already herself introduced dubstep to pop back on Blackout, this was the first time it had been done in a big hit single – and within a few months, fucking EVERYONE was doing it. There’s lots of great Britisms here, including the Level 5 innuendo on the titular lyric and even the way she pronounces “hazy” as “hayzaaaaay”. It’s a proper banger that, like Till The World Ends, doesn’t finish showing its hand until the very end.
Inside Out is about one last bang before a break-up, and the mish-mash of emotions is perfectly encapsulated by the slightly dark, synth-heavy crunch of the production. Fourth track I Wanna Go, a big hit in the US that kind of passed the UK by, is bright, bouncy and totally irresistible (“Shame! On me! To need! Release!”). And How I Roll, up next, is the album’s most adventurous song – the sparse production, the deliberately borderline robotic vocals, the gasps of breath in the background… It still sounds fresh and unique in 2016.
The album continues with nothing but BANGERS, BANGERS and more BANGERS. (Drop Dead) Beautiful isn’t among the best songs on offer but it does at least house the lyric “Your body looks so sick, I think I caught the flu”, and the stop-start fuzz of Seal It With A Kiss isn’t so much a call to arms as a call to slut-drop. GLORIOUS. Heck, even the will.i.am-laden Big Fat Bass is acceptable.
Britney’s hot pursuit of the D continues on Trouble For Me, on which she looks towards someone she doesn’t even like; and it’s on Trip To Your Heart that we discover the existence of a cross between a busy electro-thumper and a touching ballad. The vocals are processed to within an inch of their life, but the effect is oddly euphoric. Gasoline returns us to straight-up dancefloor-friendly electroville, and Criminal – although hated by some – is, for me, WONDERFUL. Its central instrument is a fucking FLUTE, people, what more can you want?!
The Deluxe Edition continues the brilliance: Up ‘N Down keeps the party in fifth gear, He About To Lose Me would be perfect if I could convince myself that it’s actually Britney singing the chorus, Selfish has one of the best choruses on the whole album and OOOOOOH I don’t actually remember ever hearing Don’t Keep Me Waiting before (I didn’t even realise the Deluxe Edition existed until recently) but it’s a nifty big sister for Circus’s Rock Me In.
This album is DRIPPING IN ROBOBANGERS and even though Britney has never been more vocally tampered-with, I DON’T EVEN CARE. It’s an unsurprising five for Femme Fatale:
Oh fucking hell, brace yourself…
8. BRITNEY JEAN
A lot of people fuss over Alien, don’t they? If you’ve already pushed the Britney Jean era out of your memory, it’s the William Orbit-produced track that formed a big part of the pre-release hype claiming this album was Britney’s equivalent of Madonna’s Ray Of Light. I think it’s an all right track, but – especially in the aftermath of that unfortunate leaked vocal take – I just can’t get too worked up about it. SOZ.
Work Bitch is next, and I know opinion is sharply divided over it but as an almighty ridicubanger with some great lyrical touches (“Go call the po-lice! Go call the guvanahhh!”), I think it deserves its place as a NuBritney classic – even if the lack of a comma in the title is still infuriating three years later.
Third track Perfume, a Sia co-write, is a song I have a real soft spot for. The delivery is emotive and affected, the production moodily bubbles underneath and I think as a single it deserved to do much better than it did (it failed to register at all in the vast majority of worldwide charts). But the quality quite spectacularly nosedives on It Should Be Easy, and dear Lord I think it’s one of the worst Britney Spears songs ever released. The dancey ravey bits are functional but the actual Britney chunks are appalling. Absolutely appalling. Jesus Christ this song doesn’t finish quick enough. Track five, the TI-assisted Tik Tik Boom, is also very weak, and it’s not that I don’t like Britney doing club-thumpers (see the above raving about Femme Fatale) but this just sounds lazy. Throwaway and forgettable.
Two more floorfillers follow (remember when this was trumpeted as Britney’s “most personal album”? Mmmmkay) but they do mark a significant improvement on the two before them, even if we’re still a tad short of Top Quality Stuff. On Body Ache we’re upgraded from “terrible” to “yeah sod it, this’ll do”, and Til It’s Gone is – PRAISE BE TO GODNEY! – legitimately very good. The verses are great, the middle-8 is fabulous, and the final climactic crescendo is brilliantly executed. And, HURRAH, another fantastic song follows in the form of Passenger; at last giving a change of mood and serving up a more straightforward, kitchen-sink-free pop ditty. The record’s second Sia creation (Katy Perry is also credited), it’s a really, really lovely song – and actually one of my favourites in the entire canon.
So yes, lovely, great, what a relief that this album has turned itself around and we no longer have to sit through all the OH FUCKING HELL HANG ON IT’S THE JAMIE-LYNN DUET, ABANDON SHIP, ABANDON SHIP. I’ll put it this way: Chillin’ With You is worse than It Should Be Easy. And we’ll say no more about it. After that, the brief, ten-track-long standard edition closes with Don’t Cry, which has sod all in common with any other song on offer but is actually pretty good. Not especially outstanding, granted, but Britney’s vocals sound good, the production is nifty, and – fuck it – after half the tripe on Britney Jean it’s just a blessing that it scores above a 4/10.
Deluxe edition bonus tracks continue the yo-yoing quality: Brightest Morning Star – which I seem to remember being about God – is substandard, but Hold On Tight is kinda rousing (that’s ROUSING, not AROUSING) and Now That I’ve Found You is essentially a carbon copy of an Avicii song but still quite wonderful – which is surprising, given that The Script’s Danny O’Donoghue has a writing credit. Behind Passenger, actually, this might be my favourite on the album.
We end on the Dreaming Mix of Perfume (i.e. slightly less production frills, exactly the same vocal track), and I’m as sad now as I was in 2013 that this album didn’t turn out better. Luckily the few glimmers of brilliance elevate its average score to a safe three stars in my ALL-IMPORTANT iTunes library.
And we’re up to date. If you resisted the leak, Glory is just a few days old and is still – mercifully – an absolute pleasure to sit through.
I spoke earlier about Britney albums tending to start with a bang, but it’s actually a good thing here that Glory does not. The soft, processed hums that form the intro to Invitation launch us into Album No9 rather gently – and it works. No-one sings about wanting a good seeing-to quite like Britney, but what sets this track apart is its sense of intimacy, rather than no-strings-attached fuckfests. After sounding like they’d replaced her with a computer on Britney Jean, the producers at work here actually put their arsenal of effects to good use, and for her part the lady herself sounds more engaged than she ever did on the previous album. AND THIS IS ONLY TRACK ONE.
On we go to current single Make Me, and – as highly bangable as G-Eazy may be – his guest rap is pretty much the only negative thing about it. It’s not an instant smash like most other Britney lead singles, but it’s a cleverly made, smooth-as-fuck grower, and I’m still loving it two months on from its release. Far fewer good things can be said about Private Show, on which the impressiveness of Britney’s vocal acrobatics are undermined by the fact that she just has quite a harsh tone.
It’s OK, though, because Man On The Moon – track four – puts us right back on course. This is a genuinely exquisite song: co-written by under-appreciated pop queen Phoebe Ryan, Britney once again sounds more engaged than she has for a while, the production compliments her perfectly, and the overall sentiment is just impossible to dislike. Just Luv Me is also wonderfully strung together: Britney’s delicate voice is barely more than a whisper as she makes heartfelt plea for the object of her affection to make her feel wanted.
The pace changes for Clumsy, a knee-slappin’ floorfiller (in fact the only song of its kind on the whole record *side-eyes Britney Jean again*), and Do You Wanna Come Over?, another ace from writing/producing team Justin Tranter and Julia Michaels (who first came to my attention on the A+++ Hailee Steinfeld EP last year). The chorus could be better, but after a few spins it’s become harder to care about its shortcomings and much easier to outright enjoy. EXCUSE ME while I turn this shit uhhhhp.
Track eight is Slumber Party, which might make a good choice for a single, and Just Like Me is another immaculate piece of heaven: once again, Britney’s delivery is flawless and the production positions her exactly where she should be in the 2016 pop landscape. Sexual frustration is the order of the day once again on the irresistible Love Me Down, and Hard To Forget Ya – on which Ed Drewett (Black Magic, Best Song Ever) has a writing credit – would be SO FUCKING PERFECT if only that chorus was slightly more on-the-money. The build-up is so, so good.
The standard edition’s closer What You Need is sung very well but, as a song, kinda fails to match the faultless stuff before it. It’s OK, though: the five (!) deluxe edition bonus songs are all YES ALL immaculate: Better sees Britney admitting that the sex she’s spent most of the record thirsting over is “so much better” when it’s with a romantic partner, Change Your Mind (No Seas Cortes) is simply the best bilingual song I’ve ever heard, Liar somehow manages to sound like it could fit on LITERALLY ANY of her previous albums, and If I’m Dancing is maaaaaybe my favourite on the entire LP. As for Coupere Électrique, which closes the set (AND INDEED THIS ENTIRE MARATHON): all you need to know if you haven’t already heard it is that A) its title translates to Blackout, and B) IT’S SUNG ENTIRELY IN FRENCH.
Anyway this album, though not without its minor shortcomings, is a fucking breath of fresh air and I’m SO RELIEVED that after what happened with Britney Jean and last year’s standalone Pretty Girls we’re not stuck on some kind of irreversible decline. The decline isn’t irreversible. It has quite literally been reversed. And it feels so good.
And we’re done. iTunes tells me that Britney Jean earns 3*; Blackout, Femme Fatale and Britney get 5*; and all the others are a solid 4*. Mentally I’m adding Glory to the 5* list because it’s so fresh and addictive but, y’know, I’m not going to fix my own system.
So that’s your lot. Same again with Hilary Duff…?